The mass deportation and death based on ethnicity was undeniable. In both cases, world leaders fight against the use of derogatory labels to describe these events. In both cases, these same world leaders employ a post-modern way of reasoning--that is an unwanted conclusion implies that a statement must be false. So in the face of incontrovertible evidence, how can President Ahmadinejad deny the Holocaust and why is President Bush squeamish about calling the slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire genocide?
Earlier in the year, we experienced the lunacy of President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust. The reasoning behind such a denial is quite understandable. The Holocaust has been illegitimately used to justify Israel’s harsh occupation against the Palestinians. Part of this occupation includes confiscation of land, imprisoning and torturing people, robbing and denying use of basic resources such as water, and according to some Israelis, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes with the residents still inside. Israel’s B’Tselem website (http://www.btselem.org/English/) documents some of the inequity that is being forced on the Palestinians and it does so without mincing words about the evils of Arab terrorism against Israel. Thus, one way of undermining the reasoning used to inflict such suffering is to deny the basis for that reasoning. According to President Ahmadinejad, if the Holocaust is used to justify Israel’s horrific treatment of the Palestinians, then the Holocaust could not have occurred. So though President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial is despicable, we can see the rationality behind it. But little does he know that when he sacrifices the truth about the Holocaust for a legitimate concern for the Palestinians, his efforts to help become counterproductive.
But how different is Ahmadinejad’s genocidal denial different from President Bush’s refusal to call the mass killings of Armenians by the Turks in the early 20th century genocide? Like the Jews in Europe during the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Armenians were driven from their homes and sent to their deaths. Even President Bush accepts the historicity of the suffering of the Armenian people (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/11/1339254). But the possible ramifications have tempered President Bush’s response to this suffering. These ramifications include Turkey’s cooperation in the War on Iraq and the War on Terror. In addition, we are now seeing Turkey place 60,000 troops along its Iraqi border in response to the resolution.
Who is to blame for Turkey’s response? President Bush and his followers would like to point the finger at the Houser Foreign Affairs Committee. After all, if they had not passed their resolution, Turkey would not have thrown a tantrum. But isn’t that line of reasoning the same as blaming a child for being abused because if the child had not upset their monster parent, the parent would not have been abusive?
Does the abuse model fit here? Consider Turkey’s actions as of late. Turkey has been severely persecuting its Kurdish population. Turkey has been killing thousands, driving many from their homes, and either imprisoning or exiling its critics. This is not the Ottoman Empire of the early 20th century; it is today’s Turkey. And we have been quietly supporting all of this since the 1990s (http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/19990405.htm, http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20030301.htm).
Two lessons should be apparent here for President Bush. First, both mincing words and denying reality for expediency’s sake carries with it unwanted consequences. For example, consider our immediate response to Saddamn Hussein’s initial use of WMDs. It was tepid because Saddamn was an ally in a troubled Middle East. So instead of calling him a monster, we referred to him as a moderate--that is until he invaded Kuwait.
Or think of the “Freedom Fighters” we helped in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. We knew what kind of people we were dealing with and yet we supported them because of expediency—these fighters provided a way of bleeding the Soviet Union to collapse.
Second, unless President Bush wants to become more like a nemesis, which in this case would be President Ahmadinejad, he should be honest with the past rather than opportunistic or utilitarian. At this point, we should note the difference in Presidents Ahmadinejad's and Bush's messages. In President Ahmadinejad’s case, he denies history in order to defend an oppressed people. In President Bush’s case, he minces words about history to protect abusive powers that currently serve us. And yet, what these Presidents have in common is to deny or revise history for gain.
So rather than criticizing the resolution passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, President Bush should be praising it. By doing so, he would be placing principle over partisanship which would stand in contrast to President Ahmadinejad’s treatment of history.